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Can Adding Omega-3s Add Years to Your Life?


Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that you need to get from food. They are an integral part of cell membranes and affect the function of every cell in the body. The omega-3 levels in your red blood cells, specifically, are linked to mortality, as new research finds that the more omega-3s you have, the longer you can live. 

Previous research has identified important roles for omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA. They have been shown to reduce inflammation, help prevent heart disease, play protective roles in cancer, and control autoimmune responses. Building on their protective and preventive roles, a team of scientists set out to determine if these fatty acids can also improve disease risk prediction. 

Researchers at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, in collaboration with the Fatty Acid Research Institute, analyzed data from a long-term study involving 2,240 people over the age of 65. The participants were monitored over the course of eleven years to evaluate which fatty acids were good predictors of mortality risk. 

The team used a stepwise approach to evaluate the association of different fatty acids and eight standard risk factors; age, sex, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, systolic blood pressure, and smoking. They discovered:

♦ Four types of fatty acid, including omega-3, are good predictors of mortality along with the standard factors. 

♦ Two saturated fatty acids traditionally linked to the risk of heart disease indicated longer life expectancy.

♦ Quitting smoking increased life expectancy by 4.7 years, which was the same with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.

These results could have beneficial applications for the creation of personalized diets. For individuals with a high risk of disease, adding omega-3 fatty acids to their diet could increase concentrations in the blood, allowing for protective effects. Additionally, low omega-3 levels could highlight the need for a dietary change to improve life expectancy. 

This study further highlights the importance of omega-3 fatty acids and shows that it is never too late to make changes to promote your health. The small addition of extra omega-3s to your diet by eating more oily fish can have a powerful effect. Simply adding omega-3s to your diet, increasing blood levels by as little as 1% can change your mortality risk and add years to your life.

Journal reference: 

Michael I McBurney, Nathan L Tintle, Ramachandran S Vasan, Aleix Sala-Vila, William S Harris, Using an erythrocyte fatty acid fingerprint to predict risk of all-cause mortality: the Framingham Offspring Cohort, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2021; 195,